Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II


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Post September 27, 2005, 04:16:47 PM

Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

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Post October 01, 2005, 09:01:25 PM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

I know far too much about how this story came about to have the first real post about the 2nd half, but as no one else has yet... Dan deserves some comment for his effort.<br><br>I'll try to say something about this half alone, followed by some together commentary. This will be a big post.<br><br>2nd half only, as best I can & as if I hadn't read it 100 times:<br>It's been a month, and 2 horny lesbians wanting to play video games is a striking opener, especially considering all the "letters" that opened things last time. Sadly, there is no description to remind me of what these two friends of Tom looked like, or their ships, the simulator, or even the game that's piped into all the undescribed mess halls. As such, I thought it was not as gripping as it could have been. The net effect was that the ladies are good pilots, and Tom worries about his gal back home--maybe that was all that was intended.<br><br>Instead of a morale boosting game to start off, maybe a moment with more tension would be a better start. Given the events that follow, I don't know what a better one would be, but that's what my gut tells me.<br><br>The admiral & his aide do a good job of letting us know that trouble lies ahead and that there's a lot more going on than we see, but it's slow, and that's bad for the start of a story. Then things shift back to the game, but here we only learn again that the 3 work well together and are kick-ass pilots. More or less we knew that and things slow down more as we learn it again. That their actions boosted the fleet's morale is nice and all, but the players weren't trying to when they started. All they set out to do was play a game. That the admiral is a sharp cookie, again, is nice and all, but detracts from the main storyline and characters.<br><br>The next bit, about Simon chewing out Callow will probably fit in better in the anthology version so it follows Jigsaw Creek, but here it sticks out like a sore thumb. It paints Simon in a bad light and Callow in a good one, and that's just not right.<br><br>The scantily clad doctor and the letcherous lesbians do a fair job of getting my attention back again, but only for a moment before things cut away to a letter that stops the action again. Tom moons for his love, and we see him suffering and longing--this at least is character building, and human, so I dig it even though there's been no action yet.<br><br>Next the ladies bring dinner, and we see that they care for each other. Ok, again good character development, but I'm getting hungry for something to happen.<br><br>The narrative flow cuts away again to Callow & Simon, waiting to find out what happened in space. What happened, we don't get to see. Something bad, and a bunch of people died--but no one actually in the story, so it doesn't have much impact. What's worse, Callow is marginally nice: he defends his secretary and sends Simon to tell Stephanie the good news, giving him a more human face than before. This kind of thing at first makes me think the world is about to spin off its axis, or should, anyway.<br><br>My second thought on this was that it was really, really brilliant. For Callow to be a great character he can't be a monochromatic baddie. This may be the first real depth we've seen in him, an ability to care about his causes and even about the morale of those who work for him. Deep down, he does care about more than himself and his plans, but it's going to be damn hard to get it to come out. Without these kind of insightful flashes, no one would work for him. Even with whatever dirt he has on Simon--if Callow was just pure evil he wouldn't be worth working for. We've seen Simon's character a lot--he would rather face whatever the dirt would do to him without the payoff of doing something good for a good reason. Given that some good comes out of the crappy missions he goes on, and for some hopefully good purpose, he can soldier on.<br><br>Moving on, there's a deceleration orbit burn, and the sense that finally something's going to happen. But then there's another letter letting us know they're chopping up the asteroid, but we won't see it happen. This is followed by another letter letting us know the cover story is getting thin. Unfortunately for this one, I own a copy of that particular book, so the Mad Arab's appearance here was harshly jarring for me.<br><br>The story splits to Simon again, and we read an obituary of Tom Darby. I liked Darby in The Orion Affair, so I read it. He went out with a bang, supposedly, and I was glad for his character. He was truly a heroic figure according to the account. However, this seems to have nothing at all to do with the story at hand, especially to let us know of Simon's new cache of Bond gadgets. Foreshadowing for later episodes or closing up loose ends is nice, but doesn't seem to fit. Moreover, it makes Darby seem like a more interesting and heroic figure than anyone in this story, which is the one that matters right now.<br><br>Progressing on, something is happening!! They're in the ships, and they're doing something! Ignoring the obvious Star Wars joke, I'm back into it. Plus there's an awesome picture! There's action, danger, and description... Cool beans. They're doing a recon, with another good pic. Finally, I get the perception that things are clicking. The story is moving... stuff's happening!<br><br>Another letter stops the action, reminding us that Tom is far from the one he loves. Strangely, he tells us that Abby is in charge of his suit drills, but he told us that two or three letters back.<br><br>Next there is another aside, telling us what's happening without showing us. Tom follows with a nice slice of life, making things seem not too bad living in space.<br><br>Tom follows with another letter, wherein even he says there isn't much to say. This begs the question, then why say it in the first place? I think the epistolaries are interesting, and I was digging them for a while. Now, however, I want to seem them only if they advance the plot , add tone, or build character. Otherwise, I think they're best left off.<br><br>We learn the cover's blown, but it doesn't mean much as far as the mission is concerned. This flows into another letter, which at least gives some description of what's going on, even if it's a fairy tale censored version. That being said, I thought it was absolute genius to have Tom's pics be adopted as a mission patch/pinup. That reflected camaraderie and cleverness on the part of the folks in space, putting a human face (and body) to the mission. It's also nice to know that Aphelion will be an interstellar publication one day. :)<br><br>Following this is a meeting and a letter, and we all know that nothing happens in a meeting. The letter is the more useful of the two, and we see that Stephanie at least is seeing a therapist in Tom's absence, so not everything is well at home, so to speak (or perhaps conversely, maybe it is because she does see one). Other than that, work progressed to the point where deadlines are tight, so says the disguised infodump.<br><br>Now comes the big moment, and we see the big picture first, followed by Tom's piece of it. That was well done, I thought. I finally get it all, I see what's happening, who's involved, and I was sucked in. They're all doing their thing, saving the world...<br><br>BANG! Dead Samantha, and the world gets more complicated. Tom & crew hurry to save whomever they can, but we already knew she was dead. This knowledge, I thought, robbed the emotional drama of what was already the death of only a supporting character. If Tom & Abby didn't know Samantha's fate before they arrived, then the suspense is heightened and the emotional impact stronger.<br><br>So, Tom's bummed, Abby doesn't want to go home, and things are down emotionally all over. Then, we learn in Tom's letter that the mission is over, and I was flabbergasted. That's it? That was the climax? There must be more, I was sure.<br><br>But then there was another picture, this time with the lassoed fragments in their magnetic sails, so now I'm thinking, ok, there's more to come, but I can't for the life of me guess what. I'm still hooked into this tale, so I read on.<br><br>We learn how Miranda is related to the admiral, then about the Marduk blowing itself apart. Tom and the man in charge have a philosophical chat about man's future. Tom writes that he's almost home, and now I'm really alarmed. Is that it? Is there nothing more?<br><br>Alarms! Danger! Yes! Is this the big scene? Tom's in form, saving that unconscious woman on the way to the lifeboat. Cool. <br><br>Tom now says he's 72 hours from home, and people not involved in the story are doing things that don't mean a whole lot to me, but by now I'm jaded. I guess I'm glad there aren't going to be any Tesla cannons hanging around, but I can't really see in practical terms how all those people are going to stay alive that long without a support system in place, giving them food, air, and water.<br><br>Zod disappears, but now I completely don't know what's going on. Is this story really almost over, or is there more coming at me. It seems to be on the downhill slope for falling action, but what could be left?<br><br>Just like that, Dan delivers a high-tension scene right when it was really needed. Tom's maybe going to buy the farm on landing. Will he live or not? Simon tends to be the main character in these stories, but I don't think they'd kill Tom off. Still, he's not the main guy... Will he live? (The downside to this wonderful scene was not knowing what in the heck the "rocket pickup" is that was trying to catch the damaged front end of the shuttle. I couldn't picture it.)<br><br>On both parts:<br>I really think this story plays better as one long piece, rather than two. The division makes the second half start flat, rather than building on the energy and wonder built in the first bit. I was hooked and into it when the 1st third ended, but couldn't get into it for quite a while on this part because of all the telling instead of showing.<br><br>I disagreed with Dan's choice for a climax (as I'm sure the comments above bear out), and we politely argued about it. He had his own reasons for going as he did, but I would really like to know how others feel about it. I like stories that follow a particular style when it comes to the plot and character development, but that doesn't make me right. (I'm sure the other Nightwatchers would tell you I'm frequently not right.) What do you people think??<br><br>Credit where credit where credit is due: Dan has a phenomenal ability to build worlds with complex interaction built on strong real-world scientific principles. A story that covers the action of three years, fitting in the events of a dozen different stories from nine different authors, many of which hadn't been written yet--I wouldn't have touched this with a ten foot pole (and I think I told him so).<br><br>Dan didn't flinch. He researched and researched, brainstormed and brainstormed. He made connections, checked on theories to make the physics work, and burned the midnight oil. (He should post a link to his notes file for this, so you all could see how damn much work that man did. It humbled me, I swear.) <br><br>And then he delivered exactly what he said he would.<br><br>I may have my ideas about plot or character development, but I have to tip my hat and bow to an incredible achievement. You're a damn good writer, Dan, and you should be proud of what you've done. It's not perfect, but it's still one hell of a job--a job I couldn't have done.<br><br><br>Nate<br><br>Other Nightwatch writers: step out from under the cone of silence and say what you thought, gol durn it. It doesn't matter if you already told Dan. Your comments may help start a dialogue on this story, and that's really what Dan could use. I had said a lot of this to him when he was writing it, but I know that comments spark more comments (even if it's to violently disagree with me), so that's why I posted. You don't have to spend 4 hours like I did making this critique, but jee whiz, say something.
Last edited by kailhofer on October 01, 2005, 09:10:11 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 02, 2005, 01:26:57 AM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

Nate,<br>At least a quarter of the good stuff was from your advice, even where I disagreed with you and went off in a different direction.<br>Dan<br>
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Post October 09, 2005, 07:23:38 PM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

So ends Dan’s great Nightwatch epic, Fly By Wire. I must say that the second part did not flow as smoothly for me. Although I enjoy organic dialogue, it seemed to ramble a bit too much in a few places. Granted, that seems to be par for the course for many popular, modern writers.<br><br>I’m not sure about the opening gaming sequence. Although I thought it quite creative, I had trouble believing that the Admiral thought this a good idea. For one thing, what if the game crashed the computer system? Also, as a fellow crewmember, why would I find it a morale boost to see someone playing games while I worked 12 hour shifts?<br><br>I find Callow to be most effective when he’s not one-dimensional, so it was an excellent touch to have him feel protective of his secretary. The fact that Simon seemed to be the unreasonable one was also a great move. Dan shows two instances of expanding a character’s persona which will give future writers more flexibility.<br><br>The ongoing letters humanized the mission. Like a soldier’s letters home during wartime, they communicated the loneliness and the length of the assignment. There’s just something forlorn about the whole process, communicating the vastness of space and the fragility of life.<br><br>I’m still debating with myself on how Dan handled the POV shifts. I really viewed this being Tom’s story, although not without having to wrest it from Simon and Stephanie. Then again, given the scope, it might have been difficult restricting it to just Tom.<br><br>One thing that the second part lacks is a true antagonist. Anthropomorphizing the comet would have fit this role. We see flashes of this…<br>
The Saint George was slowing his charge, preparing to meet the great dragon, Cthulu.
<br>…although most of the time, it just seems like a big (albeit extremely deadly) rock. This is especially critical during the death of Samantha. It would have been more effective to have Cthulhu strike her down, as if its barbed tentacles reached forth from the deep recesses of R’lyeh, to silence her forever in the infinite dark frost.<br><br>The crash landing at the end was best action sequence of either part. Nice writing here.<br><br>Overall, I enjoyed Fly By Wire. Tesla and Zod inserted an element of conspiracy theory that I’m sure some writer will delve into with wicked fascination. It was quite a feat that Dan kept his long-term story in synch with the others. Great job!
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Post October 29, 2005, 11:22:36 AM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

Dan,<br>You mentioned the other day that you planned on 2.0-ing this story at some point.<br><br>Well, I was reading through the Nightwatch Bible again (my story has been written for almost a year, except for any rewrites or input hopefully to be given to me from other authors, so I don't know why I occasionally look through the bible--but I still do) and I thought you might want to include more on Tom's claustrophobia. If he spent that long in tin cans in space, you might want to have him lose it at least once. Or perhaps become a little more unglued than he does.<br><br>Just a thought.<br><br>Nate
Last edited by kailhofer on October 29, 2005, 11:23:17 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 29, 2005, 11:55:54 AM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

Dan,
You mentioned the other day that you planned on 2.0-ing this story at some point.

Well, I was reading through the Nightwatch Bible again (my story has been written for almost a year, except for any rewrites or input hopefully to be given to me from other authors, so I don't know why I occasionally look through the bible--but I still do) and I thought you might want to include more on Tom's claustrophobia. If he spent that long in tin cans in space, you might want to have him lose it at least once. Or perhaps become a little more unglued than he does.

Just a thought.

Nate
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Post October 29, 2005, 12:16:21 PM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

The claustrophobia is there in the bible and is first addressed in "Rogue Harvest" and expanded upon in "Dimensions' Gate." As I recall, Tom's ability to tolerate the "Ghost Rockets" sub trip was covered in either that story or by Dan in "Fly-by-Wire." <br><br>The claustrophobia is also mentioned in "Fly-by-Wire," but I agree that it should be played up more if a 2.0 is written. Dan and I had talked several times about that subject, but the story was so massive that I think he probably (justifiably) had to work around it to work on more pressing matters.<br><br>However, for the record, Tom is claustrophobic, so make sure he's suitably worried in enclosed spaces in future stories. :)<br><br><br>--Jeff
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Post March 03, 2006, 06:12:31 PM

Re: Nightwatch:  Fly-by-Wire, Part II

I found a link to an impact estimation webpage and plugged in the numbers about the comet that I remembered from writing FBW. I wish I'd had this bugger when I was actually writing the story.<br><br>It would have made a crater over 700 miles wide and 1.5 miles deep. The fireball would have been slightly less than 900 miles in diameter. People over 1500 miles away from the impact would have felt a 12.2 Richter quake and been buried under 140 feet of ejecta. A few minutes later a wind of slightly less than 4000 MPH would sweep over where they *had* been with a little less than 700 PSI. The sound would have exceeded130 dB. <br><br>My, my... I'm a dangerous little bugger, aren't I?<br> :o<br><br>Dan<br>
Last edited by Vila on March 03, 2006, 06:13:17 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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